[FoRK] The Most Important Article You'll Read Today About The Democratic Party.

geege schuman geege4 at gmail.com
Sun Nov 22 15:50:12 PST 2015

I thought this 2012 NYTimes article better explained the mindsets:

On Nov 22, 2015 5:39 PM, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:

> Does this ring true for you?
> http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/11/21/1452751/-The-Most-Important-Article-You-ll-Read-Today-About-The-Democratic-Party
> The Most Important Article You'll Read Today About The Democratic Party.
> By Dartagnan
> Saturday Nov 21, 2015  8:14 AM PST
> Ever wonder why all those folks in rural, “red” America still vote in
> droves for the same Republicans who brag about gutting the very social
> programs keeping them alive?  How someone like Matt Bevin can run a winning
> campaign in Kentucky based on cutting people’s access to affordable health
> care? How Republican governors can get away with refusing free Medicaid for
> their own citizens?  Every election it seems that Democrats end up shaking
> their heads in dismay as yet another mean-spirited red-state Republican
> manages to defeat the Democrat by essentially promising to make his own
> constituents’ lives more miserable.  Afterwards we all intone the familiar
> refrain which boils down to “these people don’t know any better.”  If only
> the Democrats had a more effective “message” on the issues, we could surely
> reach those people who by all strands of logic ought to vote blue, and
> convince them that Republicans don’t have their interests at heart.
> In one of the more insightful articles ever written about what motivates
> the rural poor to vote Republican, Alec MacGillis , who covers politics for
> ProPublica,  took a tour through deep red America, asking the same
> questions. In an Op-Ed for today’s New York Times, MacGillis explains that
> it’s not all about guns and abortion that drives the rural poor to vote
> Republican. In fact it’s something very basic to human nature, which the
> GOP exploits at every turn. And Democrats ignore it at their peril.
> MacGillis’ first observation is that many people in rural, downtrodden
> areas—and specifically, the ones who benefit the most from programs such as
> Medicaid and Social Security Disability— are completely disconnected from
> the political process. They simply choose not to vote. Visiting a free
> medical clinic in Tennessee, MacGillis asked the people lined up how they
> felt about Obama. Contrary to his expectations he didn’t encounter
> hostility, Many people expressed support for the President. But practically
> none of them had bothered to vote:
> [T]he people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats
> are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing
> Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting
> data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected
> from the political process.
> West Virginia, for example, ranked 50th out of all the states in voter
> turnout in 2012. Other states near the bottom in terms of turnout include
> Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee, largely rural states that have
> significant populations of poor people, including large percentages of
> working-class whites.
> Of course, the resulting vacuum left by huge swaths of Americans who don’t
> vote at all ensures that elections in these downtrodden areas will be won
> by those who do. Why, then, are the folks who choose to vote in these
> locales so overwhelmingly predisposed to vote Republican?  MacGillis finds
> that the operative motivation is a strong sense of resentment among those
> who are just getting by towards those who have completely fallen off the
> economic grid:
> The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger
> proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the
> sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas
> station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the
> Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those
> below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety
> net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining
> towns.
> In his article MacGillis cites many specific examples of how this
> resentment operates in practice:
> [T]hese voters are consciously opting against a Democratic economic agenda
> that they see as bad for them and good for other people — specifically,
> those undeserving benefit-recipients who live nearby.
> I’ve heard variations on this theme all over the country: people railing
> against the guy across the street who is collecting disability payments but
> is well enough to go fishing, the families using their food assistance to
> indulge in steaks. In Pineville, W.Va., in the state’s deeply depressed
> southern end, I watched in 2013 as a discussion with Senator Joe Manchin, a
> Democrat, quickly turned from gun control to the area’s reliance on
> government benefits, its high rate of opiate addiction, and whether people
> on assistance should be tested for drugs. Playing to the room, Senator
> Manchin declared, “If you’re on a public check, you should be subjected to
> a random check.”
> The belief that those who receive government assistance are somehow
> “undeserving” and “getting a free ride” is not only a phenomenon of rural
> areas, but is borne out in surveys nationwide.
> Tha pattern is right in line with surveys, which show a decades-long
> decline in support for redistributive policies and an increase in
> conservatism in the electorate even as inequality worsens. There has been a
> particularly sharp drop in support for redistribution among older
> Americans, who perhaps see it as a threat to their own Social Security and
> Medicare. Meanwhile, researchers such as Kathryn Edin, of Johns Hopkins
> University, found a tendency by many Americans in the second lowest
> quintile of the income ladder — the working or lower-middle class — to
> dissociate themselves from those at the bottom, where many once resided.
> “There’s this virulent social distancing — suddenly, you’re a worker and
> anyone who is not a worker is a bad person,” said Professor Edin. “They’re
> playing to the middle fifth and saying, ‘I’m not those people.’ ”
> The unfortunate human tendency to think yourself as better than your
> ”undeserving”  neighbor is what drives these people, even as their own
> lives are diminished by the very policies they vote to impose on others. To
> call this a vicious circle would be an understatement. Republican
> politicians thrive on and exploit these very real resentments, which are
> not by any means limited to “red” states. That’s how people like Paul Le
> Page can be elected governor on an anti-welfare platform in relatively
> “liberal” states like Maine, where reliance on social programs, particular
> in rural areas, has increased. Meanwhile, those at the top of the economic
> ladder become more and more aggressive in securing all of the wealth for
> themselves, while the poor are played off against one another. Democrats
> can call it out for the ugliness that it surely is, but it is a reality
> seized upon in every Republican pronouncement from immigration to taxes.
> If you can get people to think they’re somehow being taken advantage of by
> an undeserving “other” (especially if that “other” is a different color
> than they are), you can motivate them to vote any way you want.
>  There are no easy answers for Democrats to deal with and change these
> attitudes. The most obvious solution—getting people to actually vote-- has
> become more difficult, particularly with the decline of unions, Democrats’
> traditional mechanism for mobilizing voters.  There is also an obvious and
> intractable racial component driving this “politics of envy” that
> MacGillis, somewhat surprisingly, never addresses.  He might also have
> mentioned that the tendency of the national party apparatus to discount and
> effectively cede these rural voters doesn’t help matters, but instead
> exacerbates the problem. People aren’t going to respond enthusiastically to
> a party that apparently doesn’t even want to acknowledge their existence.
> MacGillis also suggests that the resentment people feel towards others
> they consider “dependent” can be addressed head-on if the Democratic Party
> decides to make the effort:
>  One way to do this is to make sure the programs are as tightly
> administered as possible. Instances of fraud and abuse are far rarer than
> welfare opponents would have one believe, but it only takes a few glaring
> instances to create a lasting impression. Ms. Edin, the Hopkins researcher,
> suggests going further and making it easier for those collecting disability
> to do part-time work over the table, not just to make them seem less
> shiftless in the eyes of their neighbors, but to reduce the recipients’ own
> sense of social isolation.
> Ultimately, however, the answer lies in investing the people who live in
> these areas with an economic future:
> The best way to reduce resentment, though, would be to bring about true
> economic growth in the areas where the use of government benefits is on the
> rise, the sort of improvement that is now belatedly being discussed for
> coal country, including on the presidential campaign trail. If fewer people
> need the safety net to get by, the stigma will fade, and low-income
> citizens will be more likely to re-engage in their communities — not least
> by turning out to vote.
> Note: All links in quoted segments are MacGillis’s.
> sdw
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